Across the Atlantic, American politicians also got into sky-is-falling mode. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, fulminated, “This is going to get worse. You cannot allow this to become a national security issue for the United States. And I argue it’s already crossed that threshold.”

Previous real U.S. national security threats and their manifestations include 9/11, the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (from the potential use of nuclear weapons) with the Soviets, Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s armies taking over much of Europe.

A ragtag group of jihadists roaming the North African deserts is orders of magnitude less significant than those genuine threats to the West and is more comparable to the threats posed by the bands of pirates who continue to harass shipping off the coast of Somalia. They are surely a problem, but a localized and containable one.

Western politicians and commentators who claim that the al Qaeda linked groups in North Africa are a serious threat to the West unnecessarily alarm their publics and also feed the self-image of these terrorists who aspire to attack the West, but don’t have the capacity to do so. Terrorism doesn’t work if folks aren’t terrorized.